We’ve had almost a week to soak up all the amazing action from the Tokyo 2020(1) Olympic Games. What a fortnight it was! There were highs and lows, heartbreak, and moments of heroics. But, overall, what pervaded was the Olympic spirit. A sense of togetherness and global unity that felt particularly poignant after the last 18 months.
We loved following all the action from Tokyo. We did our best to keep you updated with the big stories and our personal highlights, but, if you missed anything, or if you simply want to relive some of the best bits – here’s a list of our Top Ten Moments from Tokyo 2020(1).
Well, we didn’t know it was possible to hold your breath for over an hour… Until we watched this event that is! The mixed triathlon relay had its debut at Tokyo 2020, and it did not disappoint. The race was a fast and furious affair. Each athlete took on their own triathlon challenge. A 300 m (980 ft) swim, 6.8 km (4.2 mi) cycle, and a 2 km (1.2 mi) run performed, as a team, in a relay format.
From the off the GB team looked strong, with Yorkshire athlete Jessica Learmonth putting in a masterclass performance on the swim. Coming back from his disappointment in the individual race, Johnathan Brownlee put in a storming effort, to put the British quartet well into the lead heading into the second half of the race. Although the Americans came back strongly in the latter stages of the race, Alex Yee’s running pedigree was too strong in the end and the GB four took the first gold medal up for grabs in the event. We can’t wait for this one to come back in 2024!
Haha true story! https://t.co/0akvvFbNSK
— Jonathan Brownlee (@jonny_brownlee) July 31, 2021
In July 2021 Karsten Warholm broke a World Record, for the 400 m Hurdles, that had stood for 29 years. At his first race of the season, he bettered Kevin Young’s long standing record performance, with a time of 46.70. The Norwegian sprinter was clearly in incredible form. Just one month later, he did it again. This time at the Olympic Games.
The final of the Men’s 400m Hurdles in Tokyo was absolutely a ground-breaking moment for the sport. Warholm’s new World Record 45.94 was a 1.6% improvement on his performance from just weeks before, and the first time that anyone had broken the 46 second barrier in the sport.
My biggest dream has become reality! Olympic champion and a World Record! Thank you❤️🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/NtT7rKfdMI
— Karsten Warholm (@kwarholm) August 3, 2021
Yulimar Rojas Rodríguez was born in Caracas and raised in a ranchito shack (think favela). She has often stated that growing up poor in a big family gave her the drive to overcome adversities. At the 2020 Olympics, she proved, that not only could she overcome adversity, but she could also achieve greatness.
Her first jump, in the Triple Jump Final set a new Olympic Record (15.41 m), surpassing the mark set by Françoise Mbango in 2008. Although she had already secured the gold medal, her final jump surpassed this, and all expectations, as she hopped skipped and jumped to an incredible new World Record of 15.67 m. The previous record of 15.50m was held by Inessa Kravets and had stood since 1995 (the year that Rojas was born)!
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Only two men have ever swum under 58 seconds for the 100m Breaststroke. One is Arno Kamminga (who swam 57.90 in the final of the 100m Breaststroke at the 2020 Olympic Games), the other is Adam Peaty, who has swum sub 58 not once, not twice, but on 18 occasions! Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Peaty has also held the last 5 World Records at the distance and has been unbeaten in both Long Course 50 and 100 m Breaststroke events since 2014.
“I’m going to enjoy the next 24 hours, have a bit of cake, just a small bit and then we’re back on it.”
He said after defending his 100m Breaststroke Olympic title. He then went on to add another gold, and a silver medal, to his Tokyo medal haul, taking the top prize in the 4 x 100 m Mixed Medley Relay and silver in the 4 x 100m Relay.
For my country, my son and my family.
For those who stayed up through the night to watch me.
For all those people who need a bit of light. You can get through this 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/LMauenRaFP
— Adam Peaty MBE (@adam_peaty) July 26, 2021
Kipchoge’s palmarès is beyond impressive, and that’s to say the least. He’s won 13 of the 15 marathons he’s entered, he’s won Marathon Majors on 10 occasions including 5 editions of the Virgin Money London Marathon, he holds the Course Record for the London Marathon and the Marathon World Record (set at the Berlin Marathon in 2018), and he is the only person in history to run the marathon distance in under 2 hours, at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna (October 2019).
The 36-year-old Kenyan runner now hopes to have cemented his place in distance running history with his back-to-back Olympic Marathon victories.
“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back,” he said. “I hope now to help inspire the next generation.”
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Despite the brutal conditions in Sapporo, Kipchoge was able to power to a convincing victory, putting in a phenomenal 14min 28sec stretch between kilometres 30 and 35 to string out the remaining field. He eventually took the victory by 80 seconds, making him only the 3rd athlete to successfully defend an Olympic Marathon title. (The others being Abebe Bikila 1960 and 1964 and Waldemar Cierpinski in 1976 and 1980).
Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi went toe to toe all the way through the Tokyo 2020 Olympic High Jump competition. Both jumpers had a perfect record throughout the final, until the bar was set to the new Olympic Record height of 2.39 metres. Neither athlete cleared the height, but rather than having a jump off to decide a winner, the rivals and long-time friends decided to share their victory.
“For me, coming here, I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold…This is beyond sport,” Barshim said. “This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”
— معتز برشم ♕Barshim (@mutazbarshim) August 17, 2021
It didn’t take a mathematician to work out that the odds of Anna Kiesenhofer getting on the podium of the Women’s Olympic Road Race were slim. The Austrian cyclist was her country’s only athlete in the race. She did not come from a pro- team, in fact, she didn’t even have a coach, and oh yeah, she was training for the Olympics alongside work as a mathematician. She was considered, at best a distant outsider for a minor medal, and by no means a threat to the stellar line up of competitors which included defending champion Anna van der Breggen, former Olympic bronze medallist Elisa Longo Borghini, Lizzie Deignan, Lisa Brennauer and former world title champion Annemiek van Vleuten.
However, the 30-year-old Austrian picked her moment perfectly. With 41km to go, she capitalised on a 10-minute lead and attacked, leaving behind a thinned-out breakaway.
At this point, as the chasing group were so disjointed, communication in the peloton became poor. Although the chasers managed to catch Anna Plichta (Poland) and Omer Shapira (Israel), many did not realise that Kiesenhofer was still away. When Anna van Vleuten (Netherlands) crossed the line with her arms in the air, she clearly thought she’d won gold. However, Kiesenhofer had crossed the line a little over a minute before, securing Austria’s first cycling Olympic gold medal since 1896 in the process.
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In 2008, Tom Daley became Britain’s second youngest Olympian of all time when he participated in the Beijing Olympics. There he managed 8th in the 10m Synchro event (with Blake Aldridge) and 7th in the 10m Individual.
In the years that followed, the Devon born diver claimed 6 World Championship Medals (3 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) 8 European Championships Medals (5 gold, 3 silver) and 5 Commonwealth Medals (4 gold, 1 silver). He cemented his place among the best divers in the world, and even claimed Olympic medals, in the form of individual bronze (2012) and synchro bronze (2016). But still, the top prize evaded him. Until now…
Daley, and new Synchro Partner Matty Lee, put on a true masterclass in diving excellence to finish just over a point ahead of Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen of China. He went on to claim bronze in the Individual 10m event, therefore becoming the most successful diver in British Olympic history.
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The golden girl of Rio (where she won 4 gold and 1 bronze medal), expectations were high both for and on Simone Biles heading into the Tokyo Games.
Following her performance in the qualifications rounds, Biles posted the following to Instagram
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Later, Biles withdrew mid competition (later returning to cheer on her teammates who finished in silver medal position). Following her shock withdrawal Biles stated,
“I say put mental health first. Because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So, it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are — rather than just battle through it.”
Although she also withdrew from the Vault and Floor Finals, Biles returned for the beam final. She finished in 3rd, claiming the bronze medal.
“I’m proud of myself for the way I pushed through and even learned that dismount that I haven’t done in years. I wasn’t expecting to walk away with a medal or anything, I just wanted to go out there and do it for myself. And I did.”
It is hard to imagine that India, with their enormous population and well-known love of sport, hadn’t won an Olympic medal in Athletics for well over 100 years, and none at all since the start of Indian independence (1947).
Neeraj Chopra was the last Indian athlete to take part in any event at the Tokyo games. But his performance was well worth waiting for. In the opening round, of the Men’s Javelin Final, he threw 87.03 m. He was then able to improve on that with a throw of 87.58m in the second round. Although he was unable to improve further, that proved enough to secure the 23-year-old athlete a historic gold medal.
Still processing this feeling. To all of India and beyond, thank you so much for your support and blessings that have helped me reach this stage.
This moment will live with me forever 🙏🏽🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/BawhZTk9Kk
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) August 8, 2021
The only question now is, could Chopra’s heroic Olympic efforts inspire more of the nation’s 1.36 billion people to put on track and field spikes and aim for Olympic glory?
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